|© UNICEF/2006/ Choice|
|UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman with Mistress of Ceremonies Michele Kelemen and US First Lady Laura Bush’s Chief of Staff Anita McBride, at the Annual International Women’s Day Luncheon in Washington, D.C.|
By Jane O’Brien
NEW YORK, USA, 8 March 2006 – In a wide-ranging and impassioned keynote speech at the Annual International Women’s Day Luncheon in Washington, D.C., UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman delivered a powerful message about the abuse and exploitation experienced by millions of women and children around the globe.
“In too many nations and regions, women are still devalued and denied or treated as second-class citizens,” she said. “They are victims of gross inequality or, all too often, much worse.”
Ms. Veneman’s remarks drew on her own travels and meetings with women who have experienced violence and abuse. It was her first speech as UNICEF Executive Director to the annual Women’s Day event, which brings together members of the UN family and associated non-governmental organizations.
Marty Rendón of the US Fund for UNICEF, which co-sponsored the event, said Ms. Veneman’s message was extremely well received. “She gave a great overview of a wide range of women’s issues,” he said. “Of particular impact were her personal accounts of her most recent trip.
“She also explained how UNICEF gets involved with such issues – that it’s not just about immunization, education or dealing with emergencies,” said Mr. Rendón.
Link between equality and progress
Ms. Veneman has just returned from Democratic Republic of Congo where she met a number of girls and women who had been raped and beaten as they were collecting firewood or looking for food for their families.
“Rape as a weapon of war is used to terrify and demoralize communities, to exact vengeance on the men through the women or because too many perpetrators simply believe they can do so with impunity,” she said.
She also spoke about female genital mutilation, the importance of girls’ education and the critical link between equality for women and progress in development.
About the Luncheon
The Annual International Women’s Day Luncheon is organized by the United Nations Information Centre, the UN Foundation, the US Fund for UNICEF as well as UN agencies and NGOs. This year’s event focused on violence against women. Events in previous years have tackled issues such as women and AIDS.
The capacity audience of more than 200 people included politicians and representatives of a number of women’s organizations and related agencies.